Michael Jai White
In his first feature starring role as "Spawn" (1997), the CIA assassin-turned-superhero based on the Todd McFarlane comic book figure, White weighed in with a presence both menacing and touching, despite being hampered by his mask, makeup and costume. Murdered by double-crossing colleagues, Spawn makes a Faustian bargain with the Devil, agreeing to lead the armies of Hell against mankind in exchange for seeing his beloved wife one last time. Along the way, the good in Spawn awakens, and the story becomes a war for control of his soul. Special effects superstar Mark Dippe in his directing debut together with visual effects coordinator Steve 'Spaz' Williams pushed the envelope to create an unforgettable visual experience. Unfortunately, the flashy style did not manage to triumph over the movie's lame substance. Not wanting "to move like a man in a suit," White created a movement style for the character that was hard for the stuntmen to duplicate, necessitating he perform most of the physical action. Long days confined within Spawn's external trappings challenged the champion athlete to pace himself and preserve energy for scenes in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth hours.Since "Spawn," White has split his time between the small and large screen. "Ringmaster" (1998), starring Jerry Springer in an art-imitates-life take on Springer's popular daytime show, gave the actor a chance to play Demond, a ladies' man whose less than discriminating tastes about where to "stick" it made him and his "project" posse perfect for the segment on "My Traitor Girlfriend." When his wandering eye lands on "trailer-trash" fleshpot Angel (Jaime Pressly) there for "I Slept with My Step Daddy," the plot thickens, resulting in, well, something right out of "The Jerry Springer Show." On a much more serious note, he starred in the NBC movie "Mutiny" (1999), a true story based on the landmark case that forced the military to fully integrate blacks into its ranks. That year White also earned some of the best reviews of his career as Pointy, the gangster-Renaissance Man of "Thick as Thieves" and reteamed with Van Damme in "Universal Soldier: The Return," this time playing supercomputer SETH and getting, in his own words, to "KICK HIS [Van Damme's] ASS."